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WATCHING THE MOVIES: Long Shot

A decent rom-com bogged down by its premise.

I don’t usually go for romantic comedies. They’re just not my cup of tea, and I think it has to do with their formulaic nature. (Yes, I realize this is coming from the movie reviewer who has a cinematic crush on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just hear me out.)

The problem with the vast majority of rom-coms is simple: you know the end of the movie before it begins. The two romantic leads will end up together, having overcome the obstacles to their love, no matter the improbability.

Still, there’s such a thing as a good romantic comedy. The real key is the way the lovers’ journey is presented, the world and story that surrounds them. That’s the twist on the formula that can make or break the film. And even if the narrative is interesting, the two leads have to have chemistry that makes the audience root for their love. The payoff of the story depends on the audience being happy to see the leads together.

Long Shot is not a remarkable romantic comedy, but it’s not bad or even too disappointing. I’ll go point by point, starting with our lead pair of characters.

To his credit, Seth Rogen does a solid job playing Every Seth Rogen Character Ever But This Time As A Journalist. The quippy doof with a heart of gold is Rogen’s thing. He nails it here. At this point, it’s probably like breathing for him. Charlize Theron is also perfectly fine. She plays this part to the hilt, but to be honest, the part could have been given to any middle-aged Hollywood actress and it would have worked.

The point of the casting is to create the “odd couple” scenario at the center of the film’s premise. See, the twist here has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with personality. He’s an immature, out-of-work schlub. She’s an extremely powerful and ambitious career woman. Watch them end up together!

The politics on display is window dressing, and not done with much care or competence. This story didn’t need to be set in a political scenario to work. It’s certainly novel to see the tropes the story employs displayed in a political world, but by no means necessary. Its ham-handed handling of modern politics is so cookie-cutter and cartoonish as to be entirely uninteresting, with a clear Roger Stone analogue as a villain.

But look, to some degree you know what you’re getting when one of Long Shot‘s major dramatic beats is that a main character turns out to be a closeted conservative and Bible-believing Christian. Horror of horrors!

Thankfully, that revelation isn’t played to demonize anyone. The script still leans generally center-left. In fact, one of its central messages is that woke leftism is childish and unrealistic, something to be matured out of. But after it tees up that interesting message about compromise and growing up, it doesn’t really follow through.

Long Shot‘s other glaring issue is the main thrust of its plot. I know rom-coms are generally viewed as wish fulfillment, but for the life of me, I have no idea why Charlize Theron’s Charlotte, a successful Secretary of State and aspiring President, falls for Seth Rogen’s Fred. Their chemistry’s perfectly believable, but the scenario is not. Fred is smooth enough, and I understand why he would have a massive long-standing crush on Charlotte. But I didn’t understand Charlotte’s motivations enough to discern why she’d go beyond a fling and fully commit.

That’s probably because the writers don’t bother to give Charlotte much of a character at all.

What about the comedy? Well, it’s an R-rated comedy, but at least not every joke is blue. I’d say the funny lines are about half chuckle-worthy and half crude, which is a decent ratio.

Last note: this movie feels every second of its 125 minute run time. It really and truly drags at points. Almost every sequence runs a few shots longer than necessary, and I don’t know why.

So this is a perfectly competent if unspecial adult comedy. But I’ll be honest, you’d be better off seeing Avengers: Endgame again. (And if you haven’t seen it, please don’t read the plot summary instead like Charlotte would.)

RATING: 5/10

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